IGS Honors Winners of Percy Grant, Synar Fellowship

Award winners
February 22, 2016

The Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) celebrated the recipients of the Charles H. Percy Undergraduate Grant for Public Affairs Research and the Mike Synar Graduate Research Fellowship on Friday, February 19th in the IGS Library. Jack Citrin, the Director of IGS, opened the ceremony and thanked Bill Brandt and Patrice Bugelas-Brandt for their generous donation to make these grants possible. The Percy and Synar grants, he noted, are critical to UC Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students seeking to carry out original research on American politics. 

Special guest speaker Eric Schickler, the Jeffrey and Ashley McDermott Professor of Political Science, paid special tribute to Senator Charles H. Percy and Representative Mike Synar. Synar, a Democrat from Oklahoma, served in the House of Representatives from 1978-1994. Percy, an Illinois Republican, was first elected to the Senate in 1966, where he served for 18 years. Both Synar and Percy had deep policy expertise. Percy established himself as an expert on both foreign policy and on several key domestic issues, including low-cost housing. Synar was instrumental in getting a new bankruptcy law passed in the 1980s and also was a tireless foe against big tobacco. He successfully pushed to ban smoking on airplanes. Schickler also noted that both Percy and Synar were mavericks within their own parties and lamented that there were not more members of Congress like Percy and Synar in today’s Congress.  

The Charles H. Percy Undergraduate Grant for Public Affairs Research awards six undergraduate students with a $500 grant to help conduct American Politics research. Urvashi Malhoutra, a senior majoring in political science, plans to use the grant to help purchase STATA, a statistical modeling software, to help with her data analysis of the impact of California’s prison realignment policy on county crime rates, which opponents said would rise significantly with this new policy. She also plans to use the funds to pay for travel to interview local officials, police chiefs, and parole officers across California to find out their views of the best practices counties can adopt to keep both violent and property crimes low. The project descriptions of all six Percy Grant recipients can be found here.

The Mike Synar Graduate Research Fellowship awards $3,000 to five UC Berkeley graduate students. Rachel Bernhard, a Berkeley Political Science graduate student, plans to use the grant to conduct surveys in California and Oregon, to examine how voters respond to female candidates in low-information races, where voters often know much less about the candidate and cannot use partisan identification as an heuristic. These kinds of races may prompt voters to rely more heavily on gender stereotypes to evaluate leadership potential.  Oregon provides an especially interesting case because all voting is conducted through the mail, and candidates supply a photo for the ballot. In her research so far, Rachel has found that Republican women and men are hurt more than Democratic women and men when they appear too feminine. Research Project titles for all five Synar Grant recipients can be found here.

Photos by Farrah Kazemi